HOW do you know if your cattle are depressed?
A "downer cow" is typically defined as a cow that is unable or unwilling to stand. They can be a real management problem for farmers as nursing of downer cows requires a lot of time and patience which can be inconvenient during busy periods, particularly calving season.
According to Dr David Van Metre from the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, USA, finding out what's wrong can be difficult due to the multitude of possible causes.
"Some of the possible causes include bone fracture, milk fever, infection of the udder or uterus, a pre-existing disease or relapse and dietary deficiencies.
"Evaluation of the downer cow is a diagnosis of exclusion and should commence with a comprehensive examination of such factors as breed, gender, weight, production status and intended use. A clear understanding of the animal's intended use is necessary for practical and economic decision making and for selection of appropriate medications and treatment regime," Dr Van Metre said.
Other considerations include dietary and environmental history, recent medical and treatment history and the length of time the cow has been down.
A cow becomes a downer cow when the initial illness resolves but the cow doesn't rise as a result of acquired muscle and nerve damage. This damage occurs because prolonged lying down results in heavy pressure on muscles and nerves which can be made worse in many diseases by the cow being unable to shift position to prevent continuous bearing of weight on the same area of the body.
Dr Poulton from Tarwin Veterinary Group, Victoria, said secondary effects of downer syndrome often had the biggest impact.
"If the primary syndrome isn't resolved quickly with the animal being able to stand and walk, secondary problems inevitably occur. It is important to examine downer cows carefully looking for this secondary damage so they can be treated accordingly.
"Statistics show that about half of the downer cows rise within four to seven days so the prognosis for cows down for more than 10 days is poor.
"Good nursing care is the key to success."